Money and Gold Shipment Scams involving Customs

Are you or a loved the intended recipient of gold or money being carried into or shipped into the United States? Are you being asked to pay money to receive the money or gold?

If so, you’ve might have found this page because you are being told that the money or gold is not being released because the declaration was not complete or proper taxes were not paid. Or something very similar to that story. And now you are having doubts about its authenticity, or are just worried that you might be in trouble.

How does the scam work?

In the typical story, the money is held by the courier, sometimes customs, or sometimes by some other law enforcement agency.

All of the calls I’ve receive on this topic are from people who are getting scammed by someone. And sometimes the scams are very sophisticated, involving very official looking documentation from CBP, banks, lawyers, or shipping companies.

The scam is usually that a person from another country who sent money to for investment, donation, or for safekeeping in the United States. It could be gold, cash, or an unexpected inheritance. The money or gold is then supposedly shipped to the United States where it is held, usually by the shipping or customs company, pending clearance. Then you are told that the package will not be released until money is paid. Sometimes it’s shipping fee, taxes, fines, or something else.

Another version of this story is that a person (sometimes a fiancée) is traveling to the United States with the gold or cash, and is being detained by Customs until someone pays the taxes for the gold or cash.

Snopes has a treatment of a typical scenario in their article “Package Pick-up Scam” (spoiler: they conclude it’s a scam).

How do I know if I am being scammed?

Although there are many cases where customs seizes gold, money, or other property and also many cases where people are detained by Customs, in these certain specific scenarios it wasn’t what happened. It’s impossible to tell what is really happening without having an experienced person look at the situation, but here are some considerations.

Anyone telling you to pay money immediately to allow a person or gold or cash to be released is almost certainly just trying to get money out of you and nothing more. Sometimes there are multiple requests for payment; first $1,000, then another $2,500, and so on. In such a case, there is no property, person, or gold to be released. There is no official government action seizing the person, property, cash, or gold. Just a demand for payment.

If it’s truly the U.S. government behind the seizure or demand for payment, they will generate a notice of seizure, duty bill, or a notice of penalty that is most typically sent via mail (although sometimes they may e-mail a courtesy copy). They will not just call or e-mail you and tell to pay a sum of money.

In order to be sure whether you are legitimately responding to a government seizure or penalty action, assess all the circumstances.

  • Is the communication coming from an official government agency? If e-mail is involved purporting to be from an official government agency, does the e-mail address end in “.gov” (anyone can send an e-mail from a “.us” or “.com” domain, and so it easy to simulate an official sounding address).
  • How well do you know the person sending you the money/gold?
  • Have you met them in person? Can you verify their background?
  • Why are they sending you the money/gold?
  • Who are you being told is holding the money?


How can I get some advice?

Not everyone can figure this out on their own, especially if there have emotional attachments to the person who sent the cash or gold. That’s why we offer a consultations to assess if the authenticity of demands for payment for money, gold, or property being held by customs or a shipping company.

If you need a consultation, complete the form below. You will be contacted by an attorney who will have you sign a short fee agreement and require you to provide credit card information that will be used to charge our $500 consultation fee. The fee will be charged after completion of the consultation, which includes 1 hour of review of any documents/e-mail you received and a telephone call, if requested.

The consultation will give you peace of mind if the situation is genuine, and if you are being scammed, it could save you thousands of dollars and eliminate lots of grief.

Where can I report that scam/crime?

If you live in the United States, you might want to report the rime to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Cyber Crime division, which even has an online form to complete a complaint:

FBI Cyber Crime (IC3)

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    I acknowledge and agree that no attorney-client relationship is created, intended, or implied by the sending of this message. I understand Great Lakes Customs Law reserves the right to decline representation and if it does accept representation, I will be required to sign a written fee agreement and provide valid credit card information to be charged upon completion of document review and consultation not to exceed 1 hour.